Active Voice is a feminist organization that provides free speech protections for women in high schools and colleges who want to pursue journalism without being censored. Active Voice aims to create a supportive climate for female reporters, journalists, and editors. Women are censored more than men, not because their research is flawed, but because their article content often does not meet the interests of a patriarchal society. In my previous post, I mentioned how the journalists in the Hazelwood case were silenced due to the principal’s Catholic beliefs and discomfort with news stories that largely appealed to female readers. Women journalists are crucial advocates for society–we need their perspectives to take a different angle on articles that address political and social concerns. Active Voices’ goal is to help make all women in journalism more aware of their legal rights, and to build a support network for women whose work has been censored, who should be allowed to speak about any public concern without fearing negative consequences.
According to Active Voice, “Young women and girls make up the majority of many student press organizations, so when high school and college newspapers are censored, it disproportionately silences women.” (Koros, 2015). I think this is a critical issue, because we need to know more about topics that are relevant to women. There should be no social stigmas attached to contraception, sex, gender roles, and pregnancy. “Here were these strong, opinionated young women who were being shut down by their schools and told to keep their opinions to themselves,” said Frank LoMonte, the director for the Student Press Law Center. Administrators assume women will accept this type of censorship silently, but they couldn’t be more mistaken.
According to LoMonte, “The SPLC receives around 300 high school censorship cases each year, and two-thirds of them involve female students (Koros, 2015).” I find the fact that women are censored more than men highly disappointing. All journalists should be held to the same standards and treated equally. Female journalists are also more highly scrutinized than their male counterparts on Twitter and other forms of social media. Think tank Demos has estimated that female journalists experience roughly three times as many abusive comments as their male counterparts on Twitter” (Baker, 2015). Women are continually discredited for their hard work, and dismissively labeled as “mad” and “attention-seeking.” Male readers often try to silence women journalists by making gendered threats and insulting their intelligence. An example of this type of discrimination is described in an article from CNN, which states, “Lynn Povich, a 47-year journalism veteran who started as a secretary in the Paris bureau of Newsweek magazine in 1965, tells the story of 46 women with degrees from top schools who got tired of a system that relegated them to jobs checking facts and clipping newspaper stories, while men with similar credentials got the bylines and big salaries (Antilla, 2012).” Incidents such as the one described in this article prove that organizations like Active Voice are still needed, that despite women having greater access to journalism careers, they are still censored and are assumed to be incompetent despite having similar or the same credentials as their male counterparts.
Overall, it is critical to evaluate how and why women journalists are not getting hard news stories and equal opportunities. “Men make up 60% of newspaper employees, write 80% of newspaper op-eds, and author most articles in ‘thought leader’ magazines such as the New Yorker, which last year had 242 female bylines, 613 male. The record for ‘new media’ is better than print, though men and women are still nowhere near parity (Antilla, 2012).” This is, essentially, proof that there is a gender bias in journalism, because 80 percent of the stories written in 2012 were written by men. Women are leaving journalism due to the threats, discrimination, and the inability to be heard equally. The Active Voice movement is crucial to the survival of female journalists, because they are providing important education for the next generation of media literate men on how to treat female media professionals both fairly and ethically.